Song, dance, drugs and empty promises
MOVIE REVIEW: 'Sparkle', starring the late Whitney Houston
I miss Whitney Houston. I seriously do. Every time I look at her Ultimate Collection album I hesitate to put it on - unlike last year before her death.
She died too soon, before the release of Sparkle, the musical, Houston's fifth and last film.
The film is okay. It's not the best musical I've seen. I rate it far lower than Dreamgirls.
But then this all-black feature is in a class of its own, having snatched three Golden Globes and two Oscars.
Dreamgirls made American Idol winner Jennifer Hudson a household name. She outshone fellow actress and established brand Beyoncé Knowles.
Sparkle stars another American Idol champion, Jordin Sparks. Unlike Hudson, Sparks, though this is her first film, is already a household name in music.
As entertaining as Sparkle is, I rank it a notch lower than Cadillac Records, a 2008 musical biopic. Knowles, as Etta James, sings beyond her vocal capabilities in At Last and Once in a Lifetime. Wow.
Sparkle is a 1976 remake of the same title.The movie focuses on the singing talent of the three young Anderson sisters from Harlem in the 1950s.
I'm sure by now you know how I hate remakes, right?
The Anderson sisters are Sparkle (Sparks), Tammy Sister (Carmen Ejogo) and Delores-Dee (Tika Sumpter).
Their mother is Emma (Houston). Emma is a former singer who lost her life chasing her music career.
I was overcome by emotion on hearing this storyline; it was just too close to home.
Houston died in real life in February this year while reviving her career after a long period of drug abuse. Her chronic drug use, which might have caused a heart attack, led to her untimely death. When it comes to showbiz, drugs never miss the party and it's the same scenario in Sparkle .
In the movie Emma is unfortunately one of the culprits and this emerges during a bust-up with her daughter Sister.
But the salacious and sexy Sister is guilty as charged when the three sisters forms a group and become a hit. And for that we can blame her new man, Satin (Mike Epps).
Of course God-fearing Emma almost has a heart attack when she learns that her daughters are now famous and even open for big names such as Aretha Franklin.
As the movie progresses Sparkle shows why it's named after her. She sings her heart out and manages to turn even the ever-strict Emma into a staunch supporter.
The singing is superb. That said, I just hate the stereotyping and typecasting that's embedded in black movies.
I'm talking women abuse - Satin beats the hell out of Sister, in addition to turning her into a drug addict.
But there's some sweet and beautiful banter, too, like when Levi (Omari Hardwick) gives Sister a picture of a ring as a promise that he'll buy her a proper ring some day when he has the money.
I thought Ejogo as Sister did a sterling job.
Obviously, for her first feature film, Sparks sparkled.
Sparkle is in fact dedicated to the memory of Whitney Houston. Better see it because it's the last stroke of brilliance from the late diva who sold more than 170 million records during her career.
So long Whitney, may your spirit sparkle for eternity.
Screenwriter: Mara Brock Akil and Howard Rosenman
Cast: Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Tamela Mann, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, OmariHardwick and Cee Lo Green
Age restriction: PG13, with domestic abuse, violence and drugs
Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes